Good evening, friends, and welcome to the comfy confines of Substack, Mushroom Monday's new home. It's going to take some time to learn the ins and outs (seeing as it took me over five minutes to figure out how to type in the actual body of the post and not just the subtitle) but here we are. It feels good.
To celebrate our internet housewarming, we’re going to look at a mushroom I’ve been eager to write about since I found troves of them back in early October. The Aborted Entoloma (Entoloma abortivum) which also goes by the more politically and gastronomically palatable “Shrimp of the Woods” looks rather mundane as far as mushrooms go. However, there’s a lot more going on underneath the disarmingly drab façade.
Sticking with the trend set by last week’s T. mesenterica, today’s fungus also parasitizes another fungus (mycoparasitism). The mycelium of E. abortivum will parasitize the fruiting bodies of Armillaria species (honey mushrooms, like Armillaria mellea) where it obtains nutrients but is also thought to be a saprobe that decompose dead organic material.
The little white, popcorn like mounds emerging from the earth on the left in the photo above are the parasitized honey mushrooms. It was initially thought that the parasitism was the other way around - the Armillaria parasitizing the Entoloma since Armillaria already parasitize a wide range of trees species - but a 2001 study proved that it was actually the Entoloma getting one over on the Armillaria. The hunter becomes the hunted, it’s all fun and games until the shrimp has the gun. Frankly, honey mushrooms (the two to three Armillaria species in the area) were the most abundant mushrooms I saw this fall so it’s healthy to see E. abortivum try to keep the population in check.
Above from left to right: the parasitized, and subsequently aborted, honey mushroom fruiting bodies (shrimps), three healthy honey mushrooms in the middle (A. mellea), and the Aborted Entolomas (E. abortivum) on the right. I’ve seen the name written as the “Abortive Enotoloma” as well to clarify that it is indeed not the Entoloma mushrooms that are aborted.
Those shrimps are not only edible, but actually quite tasty. Generally, you want to avoid eating Entoloma mushrooms because some species are toxic, but since the original mushroom here is actually the Armillaria these are more than suitable for consumption. If you let them sit for a while they get an unsavory fishy/shrimpy odor, but when consumed within a day or two after harvest their firm texture and polite size when breaded and fried are reminiscent of popcorn chicken. These little morsels, ranging in color from white to pink, are scientifically referred to as carpophoroids which was a new mycological term for me.
Honey mushrooms fruit summer through fall, but E. abortivum and the carpophoroids only appear in the fall. They’re also only found in North America east of the Rockies whereas species of Armillaria can be found on all six major continents.
I’m getting a jump on the equinox and doing a spring mushroom and tree ID walk this Saturday with the Stamford Land Conservation Trust in Stamford, CT. Free for all to join, details here. Stay tuned for my next mushroom walk in Central Park, I’m thinking May and I’m thinking we bring some binoculars for migrating birds ;)
We’re finally getting some good snow up here tonight into tomorrow and I already know I don’t have to go to work. Does it get any better than Mushroom Monday followed by Snow Day Tuesday? Frankly, no.
Same time next week,
Kuo, M. (2014, January). Entoloma abortivum. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/entoloma_abortivum.html
Fukuda M, Nakashima E, Hayashi K, Nagasawa E. Identification of the biological species of Armillaria associated with Wynnea and Entoloma abortivum using PCR-rFLP analysis of the intergenic region (IGR) of ribosomal DNA. Mycol Res. 2003 Dec;107(Pt 12):1435-41. doi: 10.1017/s0953756203008633. PMID: 15000244.